If you have classes in Eldon Building, you may well have already seen her posters, but if not, let me introduce Abbie Smith: A 2017 Film and Television student who is already working as a Creative Freelancer for the BBC.
But how did she get there? Let’s rewind three years, to when Smith was just entering that period of time when things suddenly start to get real: second year. The September when grades begin to count, independent study becomes integral to most courses and the decisions being made can have career-spanning effects. It is a position more than a quarter of all students at the University now find themselves in. Speaking to her in an online interview, I asked Smith how she felt at this pivotal point. She replied: ‘Nervous, but ambitious to get what I wanted and to be where I wanted.’
“Smith soon went on to do work experience at a London post-production agency, Envy, and began making and editing videos in her spare time.”
It was this ambition that drove Smith to pursue a placement year. It began to take hold when she really started to enjoy studying the television industry in her first year. A year which – she admits – was ‘very boozy, but a year that changed my life’. It certainly did; Smith soon went on to do work experience at a London post-production agency, Envy, and began making and editing videos in her spare time, which put her in a strong position when applying for placement positions in her field. But I was keen to know what she thought was more important: experience or attitude?
‘Attitude! You should always present yourself as hungry to learn more, and actually be interested in what you want to do, this will lead to experience.’
Wise words from Abbie Smith, who must’ve had both, as she went on to successfully apply for and then obtain a full year placement with NBCUniversal as an On-Air Creative Intern. Although it was far from easy; she described the process as being ‘Tough, with lots of CV changes and online applications which took up time in between studies.’
But it sounds worth it. In an interview for the Creative Career department’s blog (welovecreativecareers.wordpress.com), Smith explains the duties of her position at NBCUniversal: ‘I created promotional videos for on-air, off-air, social media assets and marketing reels for the UK and wider European channels. On a daily basis, I would watch the different channel content, come up with an idea and edit it to market a new programme, film series or marketing stunt. I also acted as the head runner on many different production shoots for our channels, while also filming behind-the-scenes reels for the social platforms.’
“She has now gone straight into the industry to work in a similar role for the BBC, something she states she’d never have achieved without that year of experience.”
Statistics advertised by Creative Careers state that students who undertake a placement year are twelve times more likely to get a 2:1 than those who do not. I’m sure Abbie Smith would agree that her success of graduating with a 2:1 this summer was no doubt influenced by her year working independently in a professional environment.
As if Smith’s experience alone wasn’t motivation enough to consider a placement year, she has now gone straight into the industry to work in a similar role for the BBC, something she states she’d never have achieved without that year of experience. ‘It put me in a great place when I graduated. I applied for a role that was slightly above my capacity, but I think they saw potential in me and so gave me a shot. It was tough to start with, but I’m really enjoying it now.’
I asked If working for the BBC was as much of career dream-come-true as it sounds. She replied, ‘I feel like I’ve worked very hard to be where I am, but I think the dream will be really fulfilled when I move to London.’ However, Smith’s sights are set on far more than just a relocation; she told me her ultimate career goal would be ‘to edit film trailers, but that may be a long way off yet!’
As our interview wrapped up, the final question I posed Smith was what piece of advice would she give to her younger self? She responded with something all students – regardless of year – can take heed of: ‘Don’t take university for granted, it goes by so quickly, so just enjoy every single second.’